Monday, November 25, 2019

What I've Read Recently // October 2019

I do realize that it's nearly December and I'm blogging about what I read in October... Apparently, I need to pull my nose out of the books sometimes and take some time to share my thoughts.

The Storyteller's Secret, by Sejal Badani
Adapted from Goodreads:
A NY journalist is struggling as her marriage unravels after her third miscarriage. She travels to India seeking answers to questions regarding her mother's past that have influenced their strained relationship. Through her courageous grandmother’s heart-wrenching story, Jaya discovers the legacy bequeathed to her and a strength that, until now, she never knew was possible.
What I thought: 6.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
I listened to this book on Audible and found the narrator to be supremely annoying at times. I owe much of my negatively-slanted take to that fact; however, I also had a hard time with the stubbornness of the main character (Jaya) with regard to her interactions with her mother and with her husband. Admittedly, I have a hard time enjoying books when I don't *like* the main character. Happily, this book had another central character: Jaya's grandmother, Amisha --and I loved her! The overall story was sweeping and beautiful, part of the book is set in a place and time that I know very little about. I absolutely enjoyed getting to know Amisha (and her faithful friend Ravi) during British occupied India.

I'd Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life, by Anne Bogel
From Goodreads:
A collection of charming and relatable reflections on the reading life. This book leads readers to remember the book that first hooked them, the place where they first fell in love with reading, and all of the moments afterward that helped make them the reader they are today.
What I thought: 8/10
This was a fun book to read and it would make a terrific gift for any avid reader in your family or circle of friends. I myself, received this book as a gift some time ago and finally have gotten around to reading it. Because it is a collection of thoughts/themes arranged by chapter, it is definitely a book that does not need to be consumed in one take. Each chapter stands alone and includes insightful, often funny or clever takes on being "a reader." I enjoyed all of the chapters but found chapter 8, How to Organize Your Bookshelves, to be a highlight. This would be a great nightstand book that you could turn to when you need a few pages to settle into before sleeping.

The Last Book Party, by Karen Dukess
From Goodreads:
A propulsive tale of ambition and romance, set in the publishing world of 1980’s New York and the timeless beaches of Cape Cod. 
What I thought: 7/10
The characters were mostly likable. The setting was richly described. This was an easy book to read and I got through it very quickly. There were lots of references to other books --always a bonus. However, I didn't think there was anything particularly special about this story and I don't think it rises to the description of a "coming of age" novel. Without giving too much away, I will say that "the middle" came quickly --I was surprised by the actions of the protagonist and the turn in the story. This would be a good one to put on your summer book list.

The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
From Goodreads:
A dark and twist-filled psychological thriller about a woman who stopped speaking the night her husband was murdered and the psychotherapist who treats her 6 years later.
What I thought: 8.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
So many great twists and turns. I loved being surprised. The characters were interesting and the plot was engaging. I didn't want to put this one down (or get out of the car, as it were). The narrators were excellent but the story would be solidly captivating in print too. I definitely recommend this book if you like mystery/psychological thrillers.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive, by Stephanie Land
From Goodreads:
Stephanie Land's memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America.
What I thought: 6/10
Where to start? I really wanted to like this book and I found that it did offer personal and moving insight into the cycle of poverty in America. Stephanie Land was successful in proving that freedom of choice is a privilege in many ways; however, as a person, I found Stephanie to be judgmental, jealous, and perplexing. For example, one passage reads, "Living with illness or pain was part of my daily life. But why did my clients have those problems? It seemed like access to healthy foods, gym memberships, doctors and all of art would keep a person fit and well. Maybe the stress of keeping up a two-story house, a bad marriage, and maintaining the illusion of grandeur overwhelmed their systems in similar ways to how poverty did mine." WHAA?? Am I reading that right? Upon receiving a surprisingly big tax refund, and while living in a mold-infested apartment that is making her daughter very sick, she decides to buy herself a diamond engagement ring. Being the crazy plant lady that I am, I was also dumbfounded by her admission that she helped herself to some cuttings of a client's plants because she liked them and wanted her own. Really? Just ask. There were certainly good passages and I came away with new understanding --for which I'm grateful. In the end though, I find myself thinking, "Whatever Stephanie... I'm glad you finally got to Missoula --though, I fail to understand your obsession with that idea."

The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by Ryan J. Stradal (Author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest --which I thoroughly enjoyed and blogged about here.)
From Goodreads:
A novel of family, Midwestern values, hard work, fate and the secrets of making a world-class beer.
What I thought: 8.5/10
I so enjoyed nearly everything about this book. It was solidly entertaining. It felt like "home" in a way that good food feels comforting. This book was about women who endure heartache, troubles, and setbacks but keep moving forward. Stradal's books make me proud to be from strong, matriarchal, midwestern roots and they make me miss my grandmother.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
From Goodreads:
A searing and profound Southern odyssey by National Book Award–winner Jesmyn Ward. Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations, of the bonds of family.
What I thought: 9/10 (Listened on Audible)
This book was a lot --and I want you to want to read it. It was heavy and brutal and so very beautifully written (and performed by the narrators --who were excellent). There was poetry and ugliness in nearly every passage. It captured the essence of grief with raw honesty and refused to pull any punches. The story was sorrowful and simultaneously full of love. Both the voice of JoJo and and that of Leonie were captivating.

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover and Me, by Adrienne Brodeur
From Goodreads:
A daughter’s tale of living in the thrall of her magnetic, complicated mother, and the chilling consequences of her complicity.
What I thought: 7/10
"Don't ever forget that you and I are two halves of one whole." This is what Adrienne's mother, Malabar, reminds her throughout this story that begins with Malabar's breathy confession that her husband's best friend, Ben, has just kissed her. Adrienne becomes Malabar's confidant as she is manipulated by her mother into becoming a key player in the distractions and guise that keep Malabar's and Ben's spouses in the dark. I found it extremely readable and was impressed that the author was able to retell the story without anger. Instead, she gracefully crafted a beautiful and somewhat tragic tale of a dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. 

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